The Yahoo directory has long been part of the staple of many a link building campaign. A lot of SEO’s still seem to recommend it (although I doubt many have tested it properly) but is one directory link really worth $300/ year?
Sometimes but usually not is the short answer, read on for the long answer…
Yahoo.com is one of the oldest sites around and the directory is older than Google so it’s well regarded as a trustworthy source of links. What’s more when Google first started indexing the web and creating PageRank directories like Yahoo probably played a pretty big part in that original benchmarking. Fast forward to 2011 and Google still look for trust signals from reputable sources with some level of editorial control. If I remember rightly until pretty recently the Yahoo directory actually got a mention in the Google webmaster guidelines. In terms of the domain itself dir.yahoo.com has a PageRank of 8/10 and SEOmoz give the root domain a “domain authority” score of 93/100. There’s over 6000 sites linking to the directories homepage. So in short it’s still a powerful site to have a link from and on some level a Yahoo directory link is only going to help your rankings.
It’s also one of the few authority links you can get away with buying without falling foul of the paid link police.
Problems with the Yahoo Directory
All of the problems really stem from the cost of submission. $299/ year (or $600 for adult sites!). So if you keep your listing for 5 years you’ll of spent $1500 on one link. Now if your link budget is in the hundreds of thousands that’s going to look like a drop in the ocean but for everyone else it’s a reasonable investment and one which is worth considering carefully before you dive in.
Despite what you might read you can expect to get zero traffic from a Yahoo directory listing and if you get a couple of visits you can be pleasantly surprised. It really is just an SEO link. But how much value does it actually pass and will it help you rank?
Really this depends on the category where you get listed. With such a big, deep directory that PR 8 homepage value diminishes pretty quickly as you get a few levels down. If what you do is very niche chances are you’ll find your listing ends up in a remote deep category at least 5 or 6 levels deep. At that level the link is only going to pass a small amount of PR. In some cases the page might not even be indexed. If you’re a local business it gets even worse – you’re likely to end up as much as 11 levels deep like this Brighton hotels category. For this reason I rarely recommend the Yahoo directory to local businesses.
- The editors will bury you into a crap category (SEO speaking) because it’s the most relevant
- You can only link to your homepage rather than an internal money page
- You can only use your site name for the link which means unless you’ve got a keyword rich domain the anchor text won’t really help you rank.
Don’t get me wrong this is all stuff a good directory should be doing, it’s just not exactly optimal from an SEO point of view.
So what you’re left with is basically an expensive link which you’re buying pretty much exclusively to increase your websites “trust” (note I consider this to be very different to PageRank). The thing about trust is it’s a bit of a mythical beast, it’s extremely hard to measure, test or prove. It’s also not likely to be something which can come from a single link source or type of link. If you look at the sites in your niche which you’d regard to be “trusted” they’ve probably got links from a wide range of sources- not just high value directory listings. To some extent I think trust also comes from link volume, so you need to weigh up the alternative ways you could spend that money and maybe get more links or even better links.
Over the last 6 months I’ve cancelled the renewals on 5 yahoo directory listings and while I don’t claim to have controlled this in away way so I can call it a test, I haven’t seen anything which makes me think I’ve lost trust from those links being removed. Traffic and my ability to rank new content for long to mid-tail phrases has remained consistent or continued to improve. I think maybe if you only have a small handful of links you may still notice the repercussions of removing a listing but in a sea of hundreds or thousands of linking domains it’s hard to think one link will make that much difference.
If you’re considering a paid Yahoo directory listing I’d ask a few questions first:
Can I afford it? If you’re looking at remortgaging the house to pay the submission fee you should probably think twice. I wouldn’t pay more than 5% of my annual link budget on one link. That would mean unless you’ve got over $6000 to spend on links for your site in a year you probably shouldn’t consider it. On the other hand if the fee would account for less than 1% of your budget (i.e. you’re spending $30,000+ a year on links) its probably worth doing.
Is it worth it? This is closely related to the question above but what I’m getting at here is whether you make enough on what your site is selling to justify spending this much on a link. If you’re selling a product which you earn $500 per unit on then that listing only has to get you one extra sale to pay for itself. If you’re selling something with a $1 margin you’ll need to shift 300 extra units just to cover the cost of the listing. Look at the search demand for your product and decide if this is realistic.
What category can I get in? Browse through the directory and work out what categories you might be able to get listed in. Assume the editors will move you to the lowest and most relevant category (doesn’t always happen but it’s possible). What sort of metrics does that page have? Look at PageRank, mozRank, AC rank, number of outbound links, links from internal sources, links from external sources (if any). Link buyers will have a better idea of what it would cost them to get links of a similar quality through text link ads but ultimately you just have to make a judgement here. If it’s not got any toolbar pagerank/ mozRank I wouldn’t bother personally.
Can it help me rank? Assuming the link anchor text will be your site name, will that help you rank? Yahoo Directory can still be useful if you’ve got a new exact match domain you’re trying to rank for the exact match keyword but for everyone else you should be ranking for your brand name anyway.
Do I need it? If you’re an established site who already has some PageRank and maybe even some of that trust stuff, are you really going to see a notable improvement in your rankings across the board by adding a Yahoo Directory link? If your domains more than a few years old, has more than a few hundred linking domains or has any other means of getting trust links from .edu/.ac.uk sites I’d doubt you’ll get value from Yahoo directory submission.
Do I have a hard time getting authority links? If you fall within a competitive or slightly dirty niche but think you can get away with a listing on Yahoo it might be worth doing. Yes I’m talking to you erectile dysfunction medication affiliates:-)
What are the alternatives?
Another way to look at whether a yahoo listing is worth the money is to ask what else you could do with that $300/ year (within the realm of link building- I’m not talking about high class hookers or class A’s!). Here’s some ideas…
- Buy a permanent listing on BOTW.org – I’d seriously consider this one, botw isn’t as authoritative but it’s better organised, has less spam and let’s you submit internal pages. You can pay a one off fee which is the same price as the Yahoo recurring fee.
- Buy permanent listings on a handful of lower level directories like joeant.com
- Rent a link on the homepage of a relevant site in your niche or your local student union website
- Hire the authority blogger in your niche to write a post for your site (bound to get you a link or two)
- Commission a small piece of research or online survey
- Hire a decent writer to produce 5000 words for an in-depth link bait piece
- Hire a blogger to write 5 guest posts to publish on other sites
I guess the point is there’s plenty of ways to spend that money without the recurring fee and with the possibility of getting you more links in the future. Certainly anything which involves producing content for link bait is a bit more risky in that you’re not guaranteed any links but at least you get the content to publish on your site which should drive some long tail search traffic even if it fails to get links.
At the end of the day it you have infinite budget you’ll want to get listed in Yahoo and everywhere else you can. But for everyone else I’d seriously consider alternative options. And if you’ve got a renewal coming up for your Yahoo listing it might be worth reviewing whether you still need that link enough to justify $300.